Turnout was low in Iraq’s first vote after defeat of Islamic State
Final results are expected on Monday
Iraqis inflicted a blow on a political class they view as corrupt by shunning the first legislative elections since victory over Islamic State jihadists.
More than half of the nearly 24.5 million voters did not show up at the ballot box in the parliamentary election, the highest abstention rate since the first multiparty elections in 2005, although it passed off largely peacefully.
Iraqis faced a fragmented political landscape five months after the ouster of IS, with the dominant Shiites split, the Kurds in disarray and Sunnis sidelined.
Security was tight given the lingering jihadist threat. One policeman was killed and five wounded by mortar in eastern Iraq, a local official said, but there were no major incidents.
The poll - in which turnout was just 44.52 per cent - came with tensions surging between key powers Iran and the US after Washington pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, sparking fears of a destabilising power struggle over Iraq.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lauded the vote and called in a statement for an “inclusive government, responsive to the needs of all Iraqis”.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi - who took office as IS rampaged across Iraq in 2014 - is angling for a new term, claiming credit for defeating the jihadists and seeing off a Kurdish push for independence.
But competition from within his Shiite community, the majority group dominating Iraqi politics, will likely splinter the vote and spell lengthy horse-trading to form any government.
Abadi’s list appeared to be leading Sunday followed by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s alliance, an election commission source and a security official said.
The sources cited unofficial initial results.
Unofficial results compiled by Reuters reporters in southern provinces also indicated that Sadr, a firebrand cleric who led a violent uprising against US troops from 2003-2011, appeared to be making a strong showing.
If the Sadr list finished second, that would mark a surprise comeback by the cleric. He is popular among the poor but has been sidelined by influential Iranian-backed figures.
The Kurds look set to lose some of their clout on the national stage after Baghdad unleashed a battery of sanctions and seized back disputed oil-rich regions.
Putting on a brave face, the prime minister of autonomous Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, insisted the political process would not succeed “without Kurdish participation”.
“No party can form the next government without alliances,” he said after voting Saturday.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters